I first became familiar with Janet
Morris through her stories in the Thieves’
World Series. Morris generally wrote my favorite stories throughout that
series, and when her characters from there, “Tempus” and “Niko,” appeared in
several spinoff novels I also read and enjoyed those. So, when I heard of a new
fantasy anthology edited by Morris, I quickly picked it up.
In Heroika: Dragon Eaters, Morris has put together seventeen short
stories that all feature dragons and some aspect of dragon consumption. There
are all manner of tales here, including many that use the kind of fantasy
setting one might imagine, as well as others set during the Civil War, in the
swamps of Louisiana, on a modern earth, and in a post-apocalyptic world.
This is a big book, chock full of
stories. I read the kindle version but the paperback is apparently 436 pages.
That means plenty of bang for the buck. The stories are also uniformly well
done. The biggest names are Janet and Chris Morris, who have two pieces in the
book. Most of the other writers are not household names but are definitely
experienced and talented writers. I’d read and enjoyed material by such authors
as S. E. Lindberg, Walter Rhein, and Mark Finn, and had heard of some of the
others although their writing was new to me. I’m not going to do a detailed review
of the stories because I don’t want to give things away. Here are some capsule
comments about things that I found particularly memorable.
“The First Dragon Eater,” by Janet
and Chris Morris has an interesting structure that reminds one of the ancient Eddas.
“Legacy of the Great Dragon” by S.
E. Lindberg is set in an ancient Egypt where the gods are real. Great atmosphere
and characters in this one.
“Bring Your Rage,” by Janet and
Chris Morris has some beautiful writing in it: “When I first saw Rhesos, he
came riding a horse white as sunlight, a black dog at its heels…” Also very
“Aquila of Oyos,” by Walter Rhein features
the Dragon’s point-of-view, and has a nice twist featuring a second dragon.
“The Wyght Wyrm,” by Cas Peace takes
us to the age of Stonehenge and the Druids. Great setting.
“The Old Man on a Mountain,” by Jack
William Finley features an aging warrior on his last dragon hunt. You really
feel a lot of empathy for this character and his suffering.
“Of Blood and Scales,” by A. L.
Butcher. I liked the concept of the “bloodsister.”
“Night Stalkers,” by Travis
Ludvigson takes place in the time of Charlemagne and features Roland in a “northern
“Forged,” by Tom Barczak features a
nice surprise before you see the dragon.
“The Rhyme of the Dragon Queen,” by
JP Wilder has a great cadre of heroes and rogues, including Spera, an excellent
“The Dragon’s Horde,” by Joe
Bonadonna. There’s a lot of creativity in this tale and a very interesting
twist on who the villains are.
“Wawindaji Joka,” by Milton Davis.
Great character conflict in this one. Jimbia is an excellent character and
shows some interesting development.
“Against the Sky Tomb of the Earth
Kings” by M. Harold Page wins for best title. Great inventiveness and action
“Red Rain,” by William Hiles. Here
we have a dragon appearing during the Civil War, and Union and Confederates
must join forces against it. A lot of emotional intensity in this one and I’d
have to say it was my favorite piece in the anthology.
“La Betaille,” by Beth W. Patterson
featured the youngest hero and I loved the details of the swamplands and the
people who live there.
“Arctic Rage,” by Bruce Durham
features a kind of “Alien” and “The Thing” riff in a post-apocalyptic world.
“Sic Semper Draconis,” by Mark Finn
was full of action. Reminded me a bit of David Drake.
Labels: Anthologies, Dragons, Janet Morris